TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – A stellar “amniotic sac” may give insight into the birth of our solar system.
Astronomers have observed a young star, 325 light-years away, that is just one-one thousandth the age of our sun.
The star, called HD 100546, is surrounded by a disk of gas and dust called a protoplanetary disk. Planets are believed to be formed in those disks.
Using high-resolution spectography, they were able to look through a gap in the disk, and see what may be the early formation of a protoplanet.
“Nobody has ever been able to probe this close to a star that is still forming and which also has at least one planet so close in,” said lead author Dr Ignacio Mendigutía, of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds. “We have been able to detect for the first time emission from the innermost part of the disk of gas that surrounds the central star.”
The rare glimpse may help answer questions about how our own solar system came to be, according to CBS News.
“We suggest that the gravitational influence of the still-forming planet, or possibly planets, in the gap could be boosting a transfer of material from the gas-rich outer part of the disk to the inner regions,” explained Mendigutía.
The astronomers used the Very Large Telescope Interferometer in Chile. This marks the first time scientists have been able to study the formation of a planet at such an early stage.
“With our observations of the inner disk of gas in the HD 100546 system, we are beginning to understand the earliest life of planet-hosting stars on a scale that is comparable to our solar system,” said co-author Rene Oudmaijer.
The findings are published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.